Living will: Three things to consider when setting up your advanced healthcare directive

Living will: Three things to consider when setting up your advanced healthcare directive

When it comes to appointing a person to make decisions about our health in case we are no longer capable to act – say after an accident – most people chose a close relative: the spouse, one of the children, or a parent. In most cases, this person has no medical knowledge to make a profound and medically competent decision about treatment options and the location of treatment. More concerning even is that this person is often under high emotional stress.

Here are three things to consider when setting up your advanced healthcare directive:

Does the appointed person have the medical knowledge to competently decide and advice in a critical situation

The appointed person in your healthcare directive will have to decide about your health on your behalf when you are no longer able to make a decision. For example in case of a serious illness, a planned surgery, or an accident. Such decisions can include giving consent or refuse to medical measures, deciding about your place of hospitalization, transfer to other medical or long-term care facilities, or determine if and when measures are to be terminated. The treating doctor might also approach the appointed person and recommends further treatments, surgeries, or medication. Assessing such recommendations better than just out of gut feeling can be extremely difficult and require certain medical knowledge and experience. In general, we assume that doctors always act in our best interest and in our favor only. Experience shows, that unfortunately healthcare systems are also driven by financial targets and time pressure, which from time to time leads to decisions that are not most beneficial for the patient. To learn more about this topic, download our report “4 Reasons why Your Health Might be at Risk“. Remember, also doctors are only human beings and make mistakes, might forget to consider alternatives, and simply cannot know everything. For a person with no medical background, it will be difficult to discuss or criticize recommendations from the treating doctor. Or even suggest alternative treatment options. However, in most cases, the appointed person is one’s spouse, a family member, or a parent. Often those individuals have no medical knowledge to make a profound and medically competent decision about our treatment and location of treatment. Thus, consider if the appointed person has the capability to professionally decide on your life in such a critical situation.

This is why we have introduced the SIP Patient Guardianship. In the SIP Healthcare Directive that we provide to you, you appoint a healthcare expert from our network of specialists – or Swiss Insurance Partners as an organization – to be your Patient Guardian and to coordinate treatment, and potentially relocation to a facility that is better apt, with the treating doctors and of course your relatives.

Is the appointed person in your living will able to decide objectively

In addition to the previously mentioned difficult decisions, close relatives in such scenarios are under huge emotional stress. Deciding about the health and future of a person, potentially about living and dying, is extremely tough. Even more so if the appointed individual has a very strong emotional relationship with you. Imagine yourself in such a situation. Would you be able to competently make those decisions? Are you capable of digesting the stress of the situation, balancing out the alternatives, thinking rationally to make the best decision that also really is in the interest of the patient? Make sure that your appointed person is not the only one that is informed about your interests, values, and your will. For the appointed person in your healthcare directive, it can be an immense relief to have a person by the side, who has no or only a minor emotional connection to you. Ideally even medical expertise and experience with such situations. This person will be able to objectively guide and support when the appointed person is not capable of doing so.

Who knows about your advanced healthcare directive, where is it stored, and when to set it up

It is important that you speak to the person to be appointed in your healthcare directive several months before a critical event arrives. The big majority of surgeries are planned, and the development of illnesses that lead to the incapability to express one’s will are mostly foreseeable. However, it many cases patients appoint their authorized person for the healthcare directive only a few hours before a treatment, or the directive must be legally enforced once the patient is not anymore able to express his or her will. Make sure that you start this very essential discussion as far in advance so that you can share your will, values, and interests with no time pressure. At that point in time, there should still be enough time to reflect on your statements for a while and have a second dialogue to reconfirm or adjust your wishes.
Further, it is important that your advanced health directive is available within the shortest time possible when it is needed. Ideally, several parties have a copy of the document available. Swiss Insurance Partners safely stores a copy of the SIP Healthcare Directive on your behalf and the appointed and provide you with an emergency card for your wallet that will inform medical professionals about your will. As such you can rest ensured and with peace of mind that your healthcare directive is available at any time together with your complete medical history which might give further evidence on how to proceed in a critical situation.